Welcome to the Northern Virginia Restaurant Blog.

Restaurant reviews in Tyson's and surrounding area... mostly

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Chutzpah Deli - Jewish / Russian / Eastern European comfort food - Fairfax, VA

12214 Fairfax Towne Center
Fairfax, VA 22033
(703) 385-8883

If you haven't tried Chutzpah a Real New York Deli in Fairafax, we recommend that you do, at least once.

Don't go too much out of your way, it is not a true New York Deli, certainly not even close to Stage or Carnegie, or really ANY deli in New York City, but it's as good as we get here in Northern Virginia, and that's worthwhile. Don't expect to be blown away or coming away wowed, but you will have a small reminder of the old familiar tastes that you may have grown up with or may have heard about.

There aren't many places in this area you can get Matzoh brei, borscht and a knish all in one order, and that's a real treat.  We have tried all the different kinds of pastrami and all are tasty, but put them on a sandwich and somehow they are... underwhelming.

Chutzpah is a small simple place with about a dozen grey tables and a carry-out area. If you choose to have a sit-down meal in the restaurant, be prepared: the service is atrocious and on top of that, it lacks personality. Both are an understatement.  The phrase "pulling teeth" comes to mind.  If the lack of enthusiasm and hospitality weren't enough, we had to remind our waiter about almost everything that we asked for... twice, so there is also that factor.  

Here is a tip (for you, not the waiter). Chutzpah offers a free bottomless supply of coleslaw and delicious half-sour pickles for its in-house diners.  The trick is that they don't tell you about it.  But ask, and you shall receive!!! It's a great addition to the meal and well-worth the extra conversation with the unenthusiastic wait staff.    

The portions are average to small and it is not cheap for what you get.

Overall, for the taste of the old Jewish Russian New York, Chutzpah is definitely worth at least one visit.

And don't forget to sign up for our mailing list just to the right of this review!  We will notify you each time we visit a restaurant in your area and have something to say about it.  If you'd like us to visit and review a specific restaurant, we will be happy to hear your suggestions - please email us! We hope to be helpful to you, your family and friends, in selecting restaurants based on some input from us and having an enjoyable and adventurous dining experience!  We also hope to be helpful to restaurant management in providing feedback on our dining experience in their establishments!  Please do not hesitate to contact us!  We are happy to hear from you!


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Some unique dishes you can only get abroad

12 Over the Top International Fast-Food Items from The Daily Meal

Biryani-Stuffed Calzone?
Kimchi Hamburger?
Mince Pie Donut?
Doubledecker Pizza?

Check out all 12 here: http://www.thedailymeal.com/12-over-top-international-fast-food-items/2514

While you're there check out some more fun fast food stories, like 10 Cutting-Edge Fast-Food Innovations of 2013 or 12 Regional Foods Worth Traveling For.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Meaza Ethiopian Cuisine - Falls Church, VA (Revisited)

5700 Columbia Pike
Falls Church, VA
(703) 820-2870

If there is a go-to Ethiopian restaurant for us, undoubtedly it's Meaza. We first reviewed it back in 2011, but since then we've been there so many times that we are updating our review. We said in our last blog that we had "one terrific meal" at Meaza, but in reality we've had several dozen terrific meals there.  

According to the absolutely lovely and hospitable owner for whom Meaza is named, this is the largest Ethiopian restaurant outside Ethiopia. Two large dining halls (one usually reserved for private banquets or evenings with a need for extra need for dining space) are filled with cheerful diners during typical meal times.  There are the "regulars," both Ethiopians and non-Ethiopians, as well as a rather consistent stream of "newbies" to Ethiopian cuisine.  Dress style of clinetelle ranges from the typical "ethnic dive attire" to beautiful colorful dresses.  We particularly enjoy watching the newbies' reactions when the large plate arrives to be filled by the waitress spooning out entrees of freshly made sizzling meats and delicious veggies from kettles, to be shared by everyone at the table.  The only utensils at the table are one's own clean bare fingers, using the injera bread to scoop up the delicious food.  

We go well-done on the meats, which is probably not authentic, but is more suitable to our palates than the traditional raw Kitfo (ground beef or lamb). We order our Kitfo well-done, or, on most occasions we go for one of the beef Tibs choices, usually it's the house specialty Meaza Tibs.  Because the Meaza tibs are not very spicy, we usually request that our Kitfo to be made on the spicier side, to complement one another, since one of us likes spicy food and the other one does not.  Kitfo is served with a wonderful side of white slightly salted grated cheese, which gives the meal a great flavor and a great texture.  While the meats are offered with one side order of veggies, we usually add the Vegetarian Sampler to our order to have a larger selection (and also plenty leftovers to take home!).  This gave us a wonderful array of choices like several types of lentils, cole slaw, potatoes, carrots, spinach and other small samples to make each bite different and delicious. A great choice also, if you're up for it, is the veggie sampler with the option to include a whole Fried Fish!  The fish comes out on the tray with its head intact (you may want to ask that the head be removed in the kitchen), but it's one flaky, tender and delicious option that you can choose, although it makes the meal a bit more filling. 

A perfect addition of several glasses of red wine and cold Perrier and we were good to go. Wonderful service by Genet made our meal extra special! But all the wait staff are wonderful. 

We say "amasat ganalo" (thank you very much) every time we finish our meal because it's truly a gastronomical feast.   

It's no wonder that Meaza is a winner of numerous awards, including "Best Restaurant" rated by Northern Virginia Magazine and "Best Bargain Restaurant" rated by Washingtonian Magazine.

Note to the frugal budget diners: Although Meaza is certainly a bargain restaurant, they regularly offer a Groupon for half off.  Get the Groupon and order double!

(Updated June 2015)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sarita's Salvadorian Restaurant - Falls Church, VA

2794 Graham Rd
Falls Church, VA 22042
(703) 533-9448

To the best we could tell, Sarita’s caters to the local Salvadoran community, providing a comfortable atmosphere with familiar fare. For us, however, Sarita’s was a disappointment.

Not sure why www.yelp.com and some other websites list Sarita’s as a Mexican restaurant. It is not. It may be Latin, but not Mexican, at least as we're used to Mexican (see Anita's, El Paso, Tequila Grande or even El Tio),  We went in there thinking it was, but after seeing the menu and tasting the food, we asked the staff, and they confirmed that it is a Salvadorian restaurant.

Let’s start with the cafeteria-like d├ęcor. The plastic tablecloths and the dingy furniture, walls and floors were an immediate turnoff.

The dinginess would have been ok if it was compensated by the quality of food and the service. It was not.

The service was pleasant, but clearly serving English-speaking clientele is not the restaurant’s priority. Our waitress was sweet, but rather clueless and definitely inattentive. The few staff hunkered around the bar area chatting with customers who came in after us, no one approached our table to ask us about our meal. The water wasn’t refilled. We felt like we had to pull teeth to get any attention.

As for the food, it was disappointing both in taste and presentation. The bottomless chips were rather greasy and the salsa was tasteless. We had to mix it with the tobasco sauce on the table to give it some flavor. The nacho plate we ordered was a slopyy, soggy mess, as you can see in the photo. The chicken tortillas were blah to say the least. Mushy meat and soft tortillas (plain pupusas) left a lot to be desired. The chicken stew was barely at all a stew, as you can see on the photo. Again, tobasco sauce to the rescue.

If Sarita’s offered a better dining experience the prices, which are rather average to an ethnic dive, would not have been so insulting. But we felt that we paid way too much for the mediocre quality of lunch we had at Sarita’s.

Zagat ranks 10 restaurant power groups with U.S.-based chefs and at least 12 restaurants world wide. Fascinating picks!

One of them is in Virginia (hip hip for Jose Andres!), two in Maryland and three in DC, listed below.

See http://www.zagat.com/b/empire-ranking#8 for the full list of selections and the ranking criteria.

Lettuce Entertain You
Head honcho: Richard Melman
Main turf: Chicago, IL
Restaurants: 99 restaurants
Markets: Illinois/Chicago, Minneapolis, California, DC and Scottsdale, AZ
Average food score: 21.9
Profile: Operating close to 100 restaurants all across the country is nothing to sneeze at, and founder and CEO Richard Melman of the Chicago-based Lettuce Entertain You has over 60 partners helping him out, as well as his three kids. The group owns a wide range of restaurants from fine-dining concepts like L20 and Tru, to fast-casual chains like M Burger, Krispy Kreme and Big Bowl. For Melman, it all started with a single Chicago restaurant, a burger joint called RJ Grunt's, in 1971. Read up on the full family history here

Mina Group
Head honcho: Michael Mina
Primary turf: San Francisco
Restaurants: 20
Markets: Arizona, California, Nevada, DC, Florida, Maryland, Washington, Wyoming
Average food score: 25.2
Profile: SF-based chef Michael Mina began his career at age 22, on the day of the infamous 1989 earthquake that struck the Golden Gate City. Over 20 years later, his empire spans across the country, known mostly for his eponymous fine-dining concept, his popular Bourbon Steak restaurants, which are expanding by the minute, and the recently opened Michael Mina 74 in South Beach, Miami.

Head honcho: Jose Andres
Primary turf: Washington, DC
Restaurants: 16 currently open
Markets: DC, LA, Las Vegas, Miami, Maryland, Virginia
Average food score: 25.4
Profile: The innovative Spanish-born chef known for his DC-based Jaleo and eclectic concept The Bazaar(LA, Vegas, Miami) now has 16 restaurants to his credit all over the country. As new SLS Hotels open, The Bazaar concept continues to grow, with rumors that the upcoming SLS Philly may have food offerings from the chef as well.